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Ministers Harris, O’Brien and Donohoe unveil plans for 500 student accommodation beds

Ministers Harris, O’Brien and Donohoe unveil plans for 500 student accommodation beds

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD, Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Darragh O’Brien TD and Minister for Public Expenditure, National Development Plan Delivery and Reform Paschal Donohoe TD have today welcomed Government agreement on a new long term policy to develop student accommodation.

The three Ministers outlined the detail of the policy, which is a key deliverable under Housing for All, as they viewed plans for 521 beds in Dublin City University and Maynooth University with both to go to construction in the coming months.

Work is also progressing with University of Limerick and University of Galway who have also secured approval in principle for further investment. Funding is provided on the basis that a portion of beds will be ring-fenced for disadvantaged students;

Under this new policy:

  • The Government will fund the delivery of purpose built student accommodation
  • A call for proposals for accommodation projects for Technological Universities will open in the coming weeks;
  • Vacant properties will be repurposed into housing for students, including properties on college owned lands;
  • Reducing cost of construction and increase the pace of delivery through standardised design;
  • Improved public transport to be explored for students;
  • Continued support of the digs scheme with local authority and medical card changes to come into effect.

Speaking today, Minister Harris said:

“I am delighted to confirm Government has agreed a long-term policy on student accommodation.

“This policy will help increase the supply of student housing in campuses across the country but will also help prevent students competing with families for private rental accommodation.

“This vision and policy will inform a new Student Accommodation Strategy, which will be published later this year.”

Minister O’Brien said:

“Supply is key to addressing our housing needs and thankfully it continues to increase. We have a robust stock of new homes in the pipeline as evidence by yesterday’s record breaking commencement figures.

“Today’s announcement points to even more supply and is the result of close collaboration across Government. We know that for every student space that is created it helps to ease the pressure in the private rental market and both I and my Department will work with Minister Harris and his Department in significantly scaling up this supply.

“From limiting the amount of deposits which can be requested, to introducing a renters tax credit and implementing a 2% cap on rent increases which apply to student specific accommodation also – this Government have clearly demonstrated we want to level the playing field for students.”

Minister Donohoe said:

"I welcome the work to date on developing a policy in regard to student accommodation and look forward to the continued engagement between D/FHERIS and my officials with regard to the continued development of this policy and student accommodation proposals.

"Taking a longer-term view, in any area, helps us to better plan for the future and to provide for exactly what it is we need.

“This policy is designed to address the issue of student accommodation and to better meet students’ housing needs. This, in turn, aims to improve the level of housing stock for others in the community; families, couples, other workers, as they will ultimately not be competing for the same premises.

“It should also provide students with greater certainty and affordability when it comes to securing a place to live during the academic year. I look forward to the publication of the full Strategy in the coming period.”

State funding will be provided for the development of accommodation on university campuses. An allocation is ring-fenced for a targeted groups of students at below market rates for an agreed period of time.

This long term policy will inform the development of the new student accommodation strategy and associated schemes to be developed in 2024.

Funding for this Policy will be agreed through the National Development Plan.


The long term vision will be pursued through the following policies:

  • Increasing the supply of student accommodation and relieving pressure on the private rental sector
  • Supporting balanced regional development and the TU Transformation Agenda
  • Enabling supply of new below market rate accommodation for target cohorts
  • Reducing cost of delivery of new Purpose Built Student Accommodation (PBSA)
  • Promoting efficient use of existing housing stock
  • Examining commuting alternatives to accommodation close to campus

Purpose-Build Accommodation:

The Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science has worked to activate existing planning permissions secured by third level institutions.

The Short Term Activation Programme is currently supporting development of up to 1,000 student beds across DCU (phase 1), Maynooth University, UL and UG with €61 million in funding approved in principle by Government.

In addition, the Department has been engaging with D/PENDR on proposals for UCD, which has planning permission for 1,254 student beds, Trinity College Dublin, which has permission for 358 beds and the second phase of DCU, which has permission for 830 beds.

A total of 521 units at DCU and Maynooth University are already at tender stage. This short-term approach has been necessary in the context of the housing challenges faced and the inability of HEIs to build due to construction costs. However, it is important to move to a longer-term vision.

Technological Universities:

Phase two of the process will involve the submission of proposals for the development of student accommodation.

A suite of preliminary business case templates are being finalised and will be issued by the end of February.

These templates will facilitate a coherent approach by HEIs in identifying, assessing, and reporting opportunities for the development of student accommodation projects.

These submissions are expected to be made in Q1 2024 with assessment of proposals to take place thereafter.

Use of Vacant Property

There is a programme of state supports to stimulate refurbishment of vacant and derelict properties.

Government policy in this area, through the “Town Centre First” policy document identifies the need to bring vibrancy back to town centres through residential development. Refurbishment of vacant commercial property and college-owned properties will be considered.

A survey of vacant and derelict properties is being undertaken by local authorities. The Vacant Homes Unit in the Department of Housing Local Government and Heritage has provided data on vacancy and facilitated contact between DFHERIS and the Vacant Homes Officers in relevant local authorities, who have knowledge and information on relevant vacant properties. Through this continued engagement with local authorities it is anticipated that suitable vacant properties that could be used for student accommodation will be identified.

In addition, there is potential to make use of Planning and Development (Exempted Development) Regulations 2022 providing an exemption, for a period of time, for the change of use, and related works of vacant commercial premises for residential purposes.

Digs Accommodation

Digs accommodation is a potential immediate source to increase the supply of student accommodation. According to the recent Student Accommodation Survey, conducted by the HEA, digs accommodation currently provides student beds for 19% of respondents.

A number of measures have been implemented to support the supply of digs accommodation and these measures should be retained to assist students. Promotional campaigns have seen a significant increase in the numbers of available beds.

A Voluntary Regulatory Framework and sample licence agreement to assist both homeowners and students who wish to avail of the scheme was published on the 21st of September. The guidance aims to highlight to homeowners and students the key issues to consider when entering into the scheme.